With an extremely rough five-game homestand next up on the docket, the Dallas Mavericks knew they had to reach deep down in the guts Sunday night and find a way to somehow get out of Los Angeles with a victory over the Lakers.
So they turned to a trusted old friend for some much-needed assistance.
Mired in a horrific shooting slump since the All-Star break, Ellis poured in 26 of his game-high 31 points in the second half as the Mavs rallied to defeat the Lakers 100-93 before a sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center.
The victory enabled the Mavs (41-24) to snap a two-game losing streak and end a three-game road trip at 1-2. And with the homestand starting Tuesday against Cleveland, the Mavs knew a triumph over the Lakers had to be put in the must-win category.
With Ellis scoring 18 of the 31 points Dallas tallied in the third quarter, the Mavs were able to finally get some offensive traction after they slept-walked to just 75 and 89 points the previous two games against Portland and Golden State.
In the second half, Ellis scored 26 points and was 10-of-17 from the field. And during his red-hot shooting spree in the third quarter he was 7-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
By contrast, Ellis was just 4-of-29 from 3-point range in the previous nine games since the All-Star break.
“It was a breath-taking half of basketball, shot-making, play-making, everything,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Ellis. “He showed a lot of persistence and wherewithal to hang in after a rough first half.
“It was big getting him back on track, it was big getting another win. It’s been a rough road, but if it ain’t rough it ain’t right. That’s how the Western Conference is.”
To that point, the Mavs’ victory pulled them in a virtual tie with the Los Angeles Clippers (40-23) for fifth place out West. But the Clippers have a .635 winning percentage to .631 for the Mavs.
Ellis, who came in shooting just 38.5 percent from the field in the nine games since the All-Star break, said “I’m back” after scoring the most points since he produced 33 points in a Jan. 28 game against the Houston Rockets. Ellis credits the Mavs’ big men for helping him get on a roll against the Lakers.
“My big men set great screens for me, they were able to get me to the basket, and I was able to attack,” said Ellis, who was 12-of-22 from the field and 5-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc. “They had to switch their defense up and when they went under [the pick-and-roll] my shot was just falling.
“The biggest thing with me was just getting back aggressive. Sometimes I can be my own enemy when I go to the basket and don’t get the calls that I think I should get, and get kind of frustrated and lose my game a little bit. Tonight I just wanted to be aggressive and if they call it they call it, and if they don’t they don’t, and just continue to attack, attack.”
During one critical sequence, Carlisle called timeout with just 3 seconds left on the 24-second shot clock and drew up a play. Coming out of the timeout, Ellis drilled a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put the Mavs ahead 98-91 with 2:04 left in the game.
“Are you asking me if that’s the exact play we drew up?” Carlisle asked. “Not exactly, but we did want to get [Ellis] the ball.
“And getting Monta Ellis the ball in the second half was a very good strategy for us.”
Having small forward Chandler Parsons back also was a good strategy for the Mavs, who were tied 44-44 at the half with the Lakers. The four-year veteran missed the previous seven games with a sprain and bone bruise in his left ankle, but played 35 minutes Sunday and collected 11 points and six rebounds while going 5-of-11 from the field.
“It felt good – it’s obviously sore,” Parsons said of his ankle. “It’s definitely not 100 percent.
“But just to be able to play, and throughout the course of a game it loosened up a little bit, and on a couple of plays it bothered me more than others. But for the most part it felt good enough to obviously finish the game and play a good amount of minutes.”
Carlisle said he was pleased with what he got out of Parsons, who hadn’t played since he was injured Feb. 20 against the Rockets.
“You’re just never sure after two weeks what it’s going to be like from a rhythm standpoint,” Carlisle said. “The one 3 that he got to go in on the right side that kind of bounced up and he got a fortuitous bounce, that was big, because his other shots, I know it felt good to him.
“So this is a good starting point.”
The Mavs also received an awe-inspiring performance off the bench from Al-Farouq Aminu, who finished with 13 points, six steals, five rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes. In filling up the stat sheet, Aminu seemed to be in two places at the same time, especially when the Mavs found themselves behind 90-84 midway through the fourth quarter.
From there, Aminu scored on a drive, stripped Carlos Boozer, popped in a pair of free throws, drew a charge from Jeremy Lin, and then drilled two more from the charity stripe to tie the game at 90-all with 4:39 to go.
“That’s what I’m supposed to do, bring energy into the game,” Aminu said. “It’s a role I embrace and try to relish in it and just continue to try to bring energy to them guys.”
Of course, if Aminu is in the game, Dirk Nowitzki joked that, “That means that I’m sitting on the bench, which is a plus for us these days.”
Nowitzki wound up with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting in admittedly not one of his finer games.
Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo gave the Mavs the lead for good at 92-90 with a seldom-seen jumper. And after Ellis split a pair of free throws, Rondo buried yet another jumper to pad the Dallas lead to 95-90 with 2:42 remaining.
In the end, the Mavs shot 48.7 percent from the field and committed just eight turnovers. But they also need more work on the boards after the Lakers outrebounded them 47-33.
Still, the Mavs knew the noose around their necks would have gotten a whole lot tighter had they not been able to defeat the Lakers, who are 16-46 and have the NBA’s fourth-worst record.
“This was one of the bigger games we’ve played this year,” Parsons said. “With everything we’re playing for we want to be hitting our stride going into the playoffs, so we got to get everybody healthy and get everybody on the same page.
“Tonight wasn’t pretty, but we got a win and now we got an upbeat week coming up at home and we got to take care of business.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760